Tips and Tools for Project Managers

As a project manager, you play a unique and important role within your organization. You’re responsible for keeping a bird’s-eye view on multiple projects and clients, and managing teams and workloads. When it comes to the work you do, certain tools and practices are essential to making sure client deadlines are met and to using your team’s time and energy efficiently. 

I’ve been a project manager on the W74 team since April 2019, and in that time I have learned about a number of methods and resources for keeping everything running smoothly. Read on for a list of tools and tips I find most helpful on a day-to-day basis! 

You need tools to keep track of…

1.  Projects, tasks, and workload

As a millennial, I believe there’s nothing quite like a handwritten checklist, but when it comes to managing a whole team’s worth of tasks I know that I need something a bit more substantial. Our team uses Wrike, which allows me to organize and monitor everything that’s happening with clients, projects, tasks, and team members.

2. Time

Accurate time-tracking is a MUST for a number of reasons. Not only is it necessary for compensating employees correctly, but it also plays a key role in determining project scopes and costs. Our team likes to use Toggl Track to make sure we are using everyone’s time efficiently and effectively, to create project estimates for potential clients, and to stay within our time limits for current projects.

Gmail, Google Calendar, and GDrive, mentioned in numbers 3-5, are all part of Google Workspace, formerly known as G Suite, which I highly recommend.

3. Communication

Good communication is one of the most important responsibilities of a project manager. We need to be able to communicate quickly and clearly with clients and teammates, often transferring information from clients to teammates and vice versa. I prefer to communicate with clients via email (Gmail), and with teammates via Slack. Our team also uses Zoom for internal and external video calls…and we definitely shouldn’t overlook text messaging or an “old-fashioned” phone call as methods of communication!

4. Schedules

When you’re responsible for coordinating multiple schedules for calls and meetings, it is helpful to be able to access all of your team members’ schedules in one place. You can easily do this with Google Calendar, which is what our team uses for scheduling purposes.

5. Documents and deliverables

Chances are your organization has the need to keep track of at least one type of document and/or deliverable, and you will need a tool with a sufficient amount of storage to house everything. Project management systems (i.e. Wrike, mentioned above) usually come with some storage, but it’s likely you will want something bigger. GDrive is what our team uses to make sure that all information, documentation, and deliverables end up in one place. 

When you are selecting project management tools, it’s important to do your research and choose the ones that will work best for your team!

And remember, picking the right tools is important, but so is....

Getting to know your team

Be considerate of different work and learning styles, and what may be going on in your team members’ personal lives. Be willing to try different project management techniques depending on what works best for each team member.

Getting to know your clients

Similar to your team members, you will probably come to find that each one of your clients prefers or requires a slightly different approach to project management. Again, I suggest using a variety of methods so that you can meet all your clients’ needs.

Communicating clearly and frequently

Regardless of the tool you’re using, it’s critical that you communicate with your team members and clients as often as necessary so that everyone is on the same page. Clarity of communication is just as important as frequency. Use obvious language, active voice, and direct statements to make sure others can easily understand what you are saying, and never be afraid to ask clarifying questions – it’s usually much better to get the details right from the start than to have to loop back and do double work because of a simple misunderstanding!

Documenting everything

for a number of reasons, I strongly suggest documenting anything and everything you can as a project manager. Keep important emails, take screenshots, record thorough notes during meetings, store all client contracts and deliverables…it’s not really possible to hold onto “too many” things, and you never know when you will need to reference something.

Project managers have a big job – we often act as the driving force behind keeping things on-track within our organizations – but the job becomes a lot more manageable with the right tools and practices.